This is the story I remember from when Pete was training for his first marathon: He went out to run 16 miles for the first time, just a little longer than he’d run before. He ended up sitting down on the side of a Golden Gate Park path he’d run a zillion times, three miles from home that might as well have been thirteen.
He made it home fine and went on to run an awesome 18-miler the next week, and later an awesome marathon — so that terrible run was hardly a sign of disaster. But it made me forever think of 16 miles as the distance when marathon training gets really, really real.
After three runs in a row that followed roughly the same route in Golden Gate Park, I needed a change of scenery for this run. A Dailymile friend had suggested the Lafayette-Moraga Trail in the East Bay, and some research and intel from Aron confirmed that it would be ideal. The plan was to run a warm-up mile near the trailhead, then run the whole 7.5ish-mile out-and-back to get to 16.
Jumping to the end of the story: I ran 16 miles, and I did not collapse by the side of the road. My IT band behaved perfectly well — I’d brought a book and my own set of car keys in case I needed to turn back early, and I was committed to walking back at the first sign of pain, all of which turned out to be unnecessary — and the only new damage appears to be one teeny blister. I managed to get lost three different times, and this is why you should never let me plan your running routes, but miles are miles whether they’re on a trail or on a sidewalk directly opposite (but somehow out of view of) the trail, and at the end of the day, my watch still read 16.
I also have absolutely no idea how anyone runs a marathon.
For the first time, I hit my goal long run pace, averaging just over 10:30 miles (10:31 or 10:33, depending on how many decimal places you count). This did not feel “stupid easy,” though, the way some much faster paces did a few weeks ago. This did not feel remotely in the same zip code as easy, but I didn’t understand how to make it easier without just walking. I tacked on an extra tenth at the end, to guard against my GPS reading short (since I got lost, I also lost the feedback of the trail markers) and to make sure Nike+ would actually count it as 16 miles, and even running an extra .1 was hard — much less imagining running another TEN-POINT-ONE.
Looking at the Nike+ data gives me some clues as to why this felt tough: The first five miles of the path go slowly uphill, and while it’s nothing too dramatic (400ish feet?), that’s a long stretch of mostly false flat. (Weirdly, the mile I felt the worst was downhill.) I clearly could have paced this more evenly: 10 of the 16 miles were between 10:05 and 10:25, but the ones that were over 10:30 were very, very over. A later-than-planned start also didn’t help; it wasn’t a particularly warm day by East Bay standards, but if it’s not 60 and foggy I don’t understand what’s going on, and bad run-math meant I was finishing the toughest part of my longest run ever at goddamned noon.
But hey: I ran 16 miles! I don’t know why 16 felt like such a leap, why it felt like so much more of a physical and mental struggle than 13 or 14 ever have, but it’s a leap I made. And when I told Pete later that I didn’t understand how anyone ran a marathon, he said: Just keep adding two miles. You’ll add two more, and two more, and two more. Eventually, you’ll get there.
Two more miles? Katie-Bell-style now: I own this shit.
I even got this sweet Nike+ badge thingie:
Which, OK, actually made me pretty proud. Especially because the last Nike+ badge I got was, no lie, this (after Saturday’s bike ride):
- Pre-run food/beverage: pumpkin bread, 16 oz of water with a Nuun tab. During-run food/beverage: 30-ish ounces of water (started with 10 oz and half a Nuun tab and refilled the bottle at least twice from fountains along the route); one chocolate Honey Stinger gel at the hour mark; two margarita Shot Bloks at the two-hour mark; one last margarita Shot Blok around 2:15-2:20. Stomach was fine, suggesting that I really am better at fueling for long runs than for a stupid five-miler.
- I’ve done the same basic long run nutrition since I started needing nutrition for long runs, but the specific flavors and brands were both new this time. The margarita Bloks aren’t my favorite jelly thing — and I like almost all jelly things — but my body craves salt in the heat, and I think they’ll be a good choice for any hot run. The Honey Stinger gel tasted fine, like slightly chocolatey honey (um, surprise), but it was too runny to take easily, and I doubt I’ll buy another.
- The last water fountain was out of order, and Pete and I both were hurting for water when we got back to the car. I opened the trunk to get my phone and map the nearest gas stations, and there I discovered most of a jug of distilled water left over from Wildflower camping. I have rarely felt more gleeful in my life.
- I’m not sure if it was hunger, dehydration, the change in motion, or a combination of the three, but I started feeling nauseated on the drive back to the city. I was also craving a Slurpee, per usual, so we stopped at a Berkeley 7-11, and sure enough, the stupid Slurpee settled my stomach. If I keep running in the East Bay, I will probably develop a pretty solid mental map of all the 7-11s.
- I understand the logic of the cutback week, but it also made me feel like I’d forgotten how to run for more than 90 minutes. I’m excited to be building again.
- When the Of Monsters and Men song on this playlist came on, I started singing. Loudly. Like nobody could hear how out of key I was. Which greatly amused the cycling couple who were coming up the hill as I started barreling down.